Follow Us on Twitter

Cortney Tidwell - Don't Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up

Cortney Tindwell, Don't Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

CORTNEY Tidwell’s songwriting may be born out of personal tragedy but it has given rise to records of staggering beauty.

The roots of her musical career began in 1976, when her mother – a singer and regular performer at The Grand Ole Opry – was diagnosed as being manic depressive. As a result, her mother’s career, which had included a number of chart hits, ground to a halt and she became seriously ill. Her outbursts became so extreme that they kept Cortney from coming out of her room for most of her childhood life.

Her mother and father divorced shortly afterwards and by the end of her life – she died in 1999, aged just 49 – Cortney’s mother was so paranoid that even the sound of helicopters was enough to convince her that she was about to be taken away.

As deeply affected by these events as Cortney was, she eventually turned to music to help find a way out of her own personal darkness. A self-titled mini-album, released earlier this year, served notice of the fruits of those labours, offering an LP full of staggering, desolate, country infused laments sprinkled with subtle flourishes of electronics. The songs were skeletal, eerie, haunting structures that reached out far beyond their geographic roots.

The ensuing album, Don’t Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up takes that one step further to provide a listening experience of exquisite beauty, albeit with ethereal elements.

There’s a touch of the Bjorks about many of her vocals that lend the stripped down beats and atmospheric electronics a beguiling quality. This is never more evident than in moments such as Illegal and I Do Notice, two tracks that were co-written by Ryan Norris of Nashville’s Hands Off Cuba and which really stretch Tidwell’s vocals to the max.

That said, the album is at its most irresistibly satisfying when setting those lush vocals against a fuller soundscape, as in the shimmering acoustic ballad, Pictures On The Sidewalk. During such a moment, her vocals assume a warmer, sunnier quality that’s reminiscent of Karen Carpenter, albeit with some country-tinged guitar riffs.

She provides her own vocal harmonies on Missing Link, one of the more funky tracks on the album and certainly one of its most upbeat, while there’s a really nice duet with Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner on Society, another firm highlight (Lambchop’s members contribute at several points, both instrumentally and vocally).

It’s difficult to resist Tidwell’s dreamy vocals on La La as well, such is the beautiful sincerity with which she delivers the melancholy words against a backdrop of acoustic guitar and flutes.

The aforementioned Society is also notable for changing the mood of the album to something more ponderous and atmospheric, enabling Tidwell’s vocals to assume a slightly darker tone. It serves to ensure that the album continues to sound fresh, while evolving the Tidwell sound to span genres.

The result is never less than intoxicating and something which more than measures up to the early promise shown by that earlier, self-titled mimi-LP. Tidwell’s star, it seems, is very much on the rise.

Find out more about Cortney

Track listing:

  1. Eyes At The Billions
  2. Pictures On The Sidewalk
  3. Missing Link
  4. I Do Not Notice
  5. La La
  6. Don’t Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up
  7. Non Commitment
  8. Society
  9. Our Time
  10. Illegal
  11. The Tide